STATISM'S DREAM PROBLEM
There is no question the proliferation of the use of certain drugs has been a calamity for countless lives. An incalculable number of youngsters (and adults) have addled their brains and damaged their bodies by means of drugs, not to mention the appalling crimes spawned by some drug purveyors and users. The personal devastation wrought by the use of certain drugs is so well known that no further documentation of these disasters is required in these pages.
Horribly, rather than curing the drug problem, the ravages of drugs have been intensified and made worse by making them illegal. A kid spaced out on dope has enough difficulties. Making him a criminal only makes his predicament worse and, if imprisoned, his plight is fiendishly deepened, most likely ruining his life. Where are all those compassionate liberals who seek to rehabilitate murderers, rapists and robbers when this kid is imprisoned for a "crime" whose only victim is the kid himself?
One of the telltale signs of a society slipping toward tyranny is the expansion of the definition of what constitutes a crime. In a free society, criminal behavior is clear: it is the initiation of force (directly or indirectly) by an individual against another individual. A murderer murders, a robber robs and a rapist rapes by means of force, by initiating force against an individual. Such behavior is properly outlawed. But, today, as we gradually slide into the jaws of totalitarianism, the meaning of crime has been stretched beyond the limits of its proper definition to cover a host of individual activities which do not involve the initiation of force by anyone. The use of drugs is only one such example of a "crime" in which force has not been initiated against anyone by the individual guilty of the alleged crime. You may think drug users are the only ones subject to conviction for such non-use-of-force crimes, but you are wrong. So-called environmental crimes are examples of this type of "crime." As you will see, in this and later chapters, there are other laws on the books today which make virtually every adult in this country vulnerable to criminal prosecution and conviction of "crimes" which do not involve the initiation of force by the individual. Today, it is some kid imprisoned for this kind of crime. Tomorrow, it will be you … and it will be you, just give the statists enough time to get around to it.
If making the use of certain drugs unlawful was the solution to the problem, it would have long since been solved. But it isn’t solved. The drug crisis is worse, much worse. According to most published information, drug use is on the rise in this country, particularly among youngsters, not in decline. And there is no question that there is more drug use in America today than, say, 50 years ago. The only answer to the drug mess is to weed out its cause: the ideas which motivate an individual to resort to drugs. This is a problem which can only be solved through education and persuasion, not through force, not by legislation, edicts and ordering individuals not to use drugs. Again, if it were that easy, the legislation forbidding drug use would have already worked. Those who issue such orders, edicts and legislation must be smoking dope if they think that is going to work. But the ugly truth is statists do not really think that such tactics work, they only want you to think they work. As long as you think such methods work, statists will have carte blanche to continue to enact law after law dismantling freedom. By bamboozling you on this matter they manage to, once again, hide from you that their goal is really not to cure the drug problem, but to crush individual freedom.
If there was ever an example of the road to hell being paved with good intentions which have gone awry, it is the criminalization of drugs. It has resulted in the wholesale eradication of individual rights and liberty—and, in the unjust imprisonment of thousands who are, perhaps, sick but not criminals.
An individual’s right to life and liberty includes the right to engage in stupid, even self-destructive, behavior. This is what it means to live in a free society: to be free to follow one’s judgment, even if it is wrong. You may not approve of certain behavior, but each individual possesses the right to act in any manner he chooses (as long as he doesn’t violate the right of life and liberty of another individual).
In principle, the ruinous nature of certain drugs is no different than any other potentially harmful product which might be consumed by an individual, such as alcohol, tobacco, fatty foods and so forth. Nor are drugs, in principle, any different than any action which an individual might take which brings harm to himself, such as eating so much it results in one being overweight, not exercising and the like.
The premise of the drug prohibitionists is exactly the same as those who wish to outlaw cigarettes: the state has the right to forbid an individual to take any action which is deemed harmful to him by the state, not just drugs, but anything which might be harmful to you—the state has the right to dictate what actions you may take—the state may forcibly prevent you from following your own judgment. As we have already seen, and as you will see in later chapters, this premise is being widely used to curtail individual freedom in areas other than drugs.
The spread of drugs in this country has been a bonanza for statists. And contrary to their pious, public statements, they would be sorely disappointed if drugs magically disappeared, overnight, from our streets. A problem like this is a statist’s dream: it is an opportunity to extend and tighten, virtually without opposition, the state’s tentacles around that ever-contracting circle of individual freedom. Like termites eating the supporting joists of a house whose owner is unaware of the coming collapse of its floors, statists are laying waste to the crumbling foundations of liberty in the name of "doing something" about drugs while most Americans remain unaware of the coming collapse of their freedom.
Statists in both camps—liberal and conservative—are united in their stand to prohibit drugs. Liberals are on the side of prohibition because it serves two purposes: it moves them a very large step toward their eventual goal—the death of freedom—and it is politically popular. What could be better for the cause of statism? Here we have a problem almost no one disputes and can be used by statists as a tool to increase their control and further diminish individual freedom. Many conservatives (as well as many well-intentioned liberals) support the prohibition of drugs because they mistakenly think this will help solve the drug problem, not because they want to destroy individual rights and freedom. They are wrong, of course, about it solving the drug problem, but at least their goal is to solve the disasters associated with drugs, not the abolition of freedom. However, the terrible truth is, if their goal is freedom, then their support of the prohibition of drugs means they are supporting the cause of their enemies: those statists whose only goal is the demolition of freedom, your freedom.
The worst thing about drugs in America has not been the self-inflicted, personal devastation suffered by an untold number of individuals, as hideous as it has been, but the creation of police-state actions which have undermined the individual rights of every man, woman and child in this nation. The precedents established have been a political earthquake few have noticed, one which has shaken even more the already wobbly defenses of liberty in America.
The prohibition of drugs has been the primary impetus behind the creation of some dreadful laws which have brought us shocking violations of individual rights. Seizure and forfeiture laws, for instance, have granted to agencies and law enforcement officials Gestapo-like power to seize and keep property of individuals. In a reversal of everything for which America used to stand, your property can now be seized without due process, before your guilt has been proven, and, in order to regain your property, you must go to court and prove your innocence. What ever happened to "innocent until proven guilty"? In some cases, these laws have created a form of legalized extortion in which, for example, an individual’s car may be seized by police and the owner retrieves it only after paying the police several hundred dollars for "storage." And predictably enough the abuse of power exercised under seizure and forfeiture laws has spread, and will continue to spread, to areas other than drugs. In 1996, the Supreme Court, in a sinister decision, upheld the police’s seizure of a car half-owned by the wife of a man who was caught having sex with a prostitute in their car. The wife, totally innocent, has now lost her car.
If an innocent woman can lose her car, what will it be tomorrow? Well, we don’t have to wait until tomorrow because it has already happened. We have dozens of federal, state and local agencies seizing property for the alleged commission of crimes that not only have some supposed connection to drugs but for "crimes" that have nothing at all to do with drugs. In California, cars of unlicensed or uninsured motorists have been seized and sold by the police. We have already mentioned the case of the farmer whose tractor was seized by authorities because he allegedly killed some rats on the endangered species list. The list of "crimes" under which authorities may seize your property continues to grow and it has already spread way beyond the boundaries of drugs.
But the abuse of power permitted by forfeiture laws is the worst when it comes to drugs. The faintest suspicion by authorities that your property has any connection to drugs (or any other illegal activity) can result in you losing your property. We have the case of an innocent California man killed by drug-busting authorities who were searching for drugs on his property (they never found any drugs). We have the case of an elderly Missouri couple fighting to regain their farm authorities seized because marijuana was found growing in a remote corner of the farm. There are hundreds of documented cases of individuals, who have been found guilty of nothing, losing their property to power-mad authorities.
Suppose you are the owner of some property you are renting and your tenants decide to smoke some marijuana and are caught by the police. Under seizure and forfeiture laws, your property could be taken away from you even though you are entirely innocent. There have already been cases of this literally happening. Is this what we have become, a nation which punishes, not defends, the innocent? Unfortunately, yes.
What if you have a neighbor who has some grudge against you and decides to plant marijuana in your backyard and then makes an anonymous call to tip off the police? You could be just like that elderly couple fighting to get back their farm, except it would be you fighting to get back your house. What if you let your teenager borrow your car for a date and police later find a trace of a marijuana cigarette your teenager, or one of his friends, left in your car? Can you lose your car and have police take it away? Yes, and there are cases in which that, too, has already occurred.
What if you carry a substantial amount of cash when you travel? Can that be seized by authorities? Yes, it can, on the assumption drug traffickers travel with large amounts of cash. The DEA stations agents in most major airports just for the purpose of confiscating the cash of passengers who are spotted with what they consider to be an excessive amount of cash. In Volusia County, Florida, the sheriff’s department, for several years, routinely stopped motorists on Interstate 95 to check for drugs. If the driver or passengers were found with more than $100 in cash, they were assumed to be drug dealers and the police confiscated all of their cash. This was literally highway robbery by no less than the police. Who do you call when you have been robbed in this way? The frightening answer is: there is no one to call except, perhaps, the press, and they are, for the most part, on the side of liberal statists who wish to destroy your freedom.
Seizure and forfeiture laws are an abomination and must be taken off the books. Their repeal cannot come too soon.
The repeal of the prohibition of drugs would virtually eliminate the crimes which are associated with drug use. Legalizing drugs would largely get the criminals out of selling drugs, just as the repeal of Prohibition got the criminals out of selling alcohol. I can guarantee you the drug cartels of Columbia are in full support of continuing to make drugs illegal. Their greatest fear is not the Drug Enforcement Agency, but the legalization of drugs. Once legal, the price of drugs would plummet, taking all the profit out of it for the drug cartels. Their empires would collapse just as the empires of the bootleggers in the Thirties collapsed with the repeal of Prohibition.
With the comparatively low prices the legalization of drugs would bring, those purchasing drugs would not need large sums of money to feed their habit. Thus, the incentive to commit murder, robbery and mayhem to get money for the purchase of drugs would be much lower than it is today. Virtually all of the drug-related crime we have today would disappear.
True enough, a free market for drugs would make them cheaper but, contrary to popular opinion, they would not be any easier to obtain than they are today. You certainly wouldn’t find them being sold in Wal-Mart (however, it is their right to do so), since there would be such an outcry from their customers they would never do it. Today, it is laughingly easy for anyone to get their hands on any drug of their choice. But even if drugs were easier to acquire, it would be irrelevant. An individual’s right to life and liberty necessarily includes the right to follow one’s judgment, even if that judgment leads that person to engage in stupid or dangerous behavior.
Nor would the repeal of drug prohibition bring about an increase in the use of drugs. Again, drugs are already easily accessible today by anyone who wants them. In a free society, drug users would not be so prone to hide their habit. This would make it easier for family members and others to identify their problems and help them. Even if drug use increased in a free society, this would not justify the initiation of force against the individual to supposedly "solve" the problem. Again, the only way to solve the problem is to do so on an individual basis and by means of education and persuasion, not a government gun.
What about children? Shouldn’t they be protected from drugs? Again, think about this question. If by "protect," you mean to have the state initiate force against an individual to supposedly "protect" children from drugs, then the answer is: the state must never initiate force against an individual. The state’s use of force must be restricted to using it in retaliation and only against those individuals who initiate force.
If an adult gives some unsuspecting child a drug which is harmful to the child this is an indirect form of the initiation of force against the child by that adult. A child is not old enough or knowledgeable enough to know what is happening or to question the actions of the person giving him, what to a child, might appear to be nothing more than candy. An individual may not have any of his values forcibly destroyed or obtained without his consent. If an adult, through deception, gets the child to take some substance which destroys one of his values (in this case, his health), then it is a form of the indirect use of force. Such action by an adult in connection with a child is properly made illegal. But drugs, as such, are not a special category when it comes to this sort of thing. An adult giving some child rat poison would be guilty of criminal behavior. And, as far as children are concerned, as will be explained in a later chapter on education, the use of drugs among children would be virtually eradicated through voluntary drug testing at private schools.
It is not drugs which need to be outlawed. It is the initiation of force which must be outlawed.
The prohibition of drugs has created a statist wrecking ball which has knocked out the underpinnings of freedom in this country. These demolition men, these statists, must have this instrument removed from their arsenal of destruction. Your rights and freedom will never be safe until this has been accomplished.